Clam Pasta with Cilantro

Clams main course pasta

This recipe is the result of a collaboration with some of our favorite foodie friends (thanks Emi and Dan!). The bright cilantro flavors, lemon pick-me-up, and richness of the cream do a wonder on the clams. See our cooking clam guidelines for more info on storing, cleaning, soaking, and cooking clams.


Clam Pasta with Cilantro

serves 3 - 4, easily doubles or triples



1 onion, diced
4 T butter or oil, divided
1/2 cup white wine, such as muscadet or sauvignon blanc
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 - 4 pounds clams (~ 1 lb per person)
1 lb pasta (linguine or fettucini, but whatever floats your boat)
1/2 cup creme fraiche or heavy cream
1 bunch fresh cilantro, washed and dried, stems removed, and leaf chopped
1 lemon, half of it juiced and half cut into wedges to serve
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
fresh ground black pepper
sea salt
red pepper flake (optional)



Rinse clams carefully in fresh water, agitating them to ensure they're all tightly closed.

Heat a tablespoon of butter or oil on a heavy pot on medium heat. Add the onion and saute 5-7 minutes until soft, then add the white wine, minced garlic cloves, clams, and pinch of red pepper flakes (if using). Cover, and steam for 5-7 minutes until clams open.

Once most of the clams are open, transfer them to a large bowl with a slotted spoon. If the clams were all alive and fresh when you put them in the pot, don't worry about discarding ones that haven't opened, simply cook them a bit longer.

Meanwhile, in a separate pot, cook pasta until tender but still toothy in salted water. Set aside about 1 cup of the pasta water before draining. Rinse with cold water in the colander to stop the cooking process. 

Once you’ve removed the clams, bring the remaining liquid to a simmer. (If you are worried about grit, first pour off the top of the liquid into a reserved dish, rinse the pan, and return to the stove). Add 2 tbsp butter and ½ cup creme fraiche or heavy cream. Simmer for 5 minutes or so then stir in lemon juice. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed.

Add the drained pasta to the pot along with the parmesan cheese and most of the cilantro (reserve a handful for garnish).  If it needs more liquid add a bit of pasta cooking water. Season to taste, adding more cheese or pepper as you see fit. Cook on low, gently tossing, until pasta is heated through.

To serve, place individual servings of pasta on plates. Top with a mountain of clams,  and a final sprinkle of cilantro. Serve with lemon wedges.

Note: Between the salty clams and the Parmesan cheese, this dish shouldn’t need much salt. But if you’ve soaked the clams in fresh water to purge them, you’ll need to add more salt to the finished product.


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